Just last week I completed my first ever half marathon (21 km) as part of the Melbourne Marathon event.
See here http://www.melbournemarathon.com.au/
I completed in 2 hours and 8 minutes which was almost twice the time of the elite runners who finished near the top.
It was a great experience and I certainly plan to do it again, although next year, if I can find the time to train properly, I'll do the full Marathon.
The route was beautiful. We ran almost the whole way next to the beach except for the final 4 km which was up the beautiful tree-lined boulevard of St.Kilda Road. I had trained up to 15 Km and found that rather easy. However the last 6 km of half-marathon was really hard. I had to walk for a few minutes with about 2 km to go. I think my body needed to pull a bit more energy out it's fat reserves. After walking I felt a lot better and even managed a little sprint over the line. Right after I finished I realised how much my feet hurt. I could barely walk! I guess that shows what effective pain killers endorphins are.
The race was a great excise in humility too. I was constantly passed by other runners. I don't have my official place yet, the organisers will post the full results for the half-marathon today and tomorrow. I expect I finished about 3,000th out of about 4,000.
I wrote the following text last year. I thought I would repost it now. Since then another old friend from my undergrad days has died of a heart attack.
In my youth I used to play a lot of team sports. Especially Australian Football and Basketball. I loved playing football but I hated training for it. We used to have to do sprints. Go into deep anaerobic debt, recover, start again. It was all very painful.
Consequently I never liked exercise for the sake of exercise. When I heard that there were people who used to run for no purpose other to run I couldn't understand it all. Why would someone put themselves though all that pain and not even have the fun of playing team sport?
When my father died a few years ago I started thinking about mortality and health seriously. At my church there are many older people. Many of whom I came to know and care about. Very sadly many of these great people have also passed away. Many of these people had heart trouble.
I had a friend who I used to go drinking with in my early twenties. He was a bit portly back then but as time went on he kept on putting more weight. He kept on drinking to. He was a great person to drink with. A couple of years ago he died of a heart attack.
I had not done any serious exercise for about 10 years. I was putting on weight. I want to live for a lot longer than I have already. So I started to go for runs. I did it even though I thought I didn't have time. I just decided that it has to be done. It was more important to do this than all the other things I felt I should do.
It was total hell for the first 1.5 months. My personality is such that I found it very hard to run slowly at first. But my body was in such bad condition I couldn't run for more than 300 meters in a row anyway. But I stuck at it. Forced myself to jog slowly. To at least walk when I could not jog. Then to keep jogging when I wanted to walk. Then to maintain the jog up a hill. Then to complete 1 circuit of some parks near my house (about 1.5 km). Then complete two circuits. Then to increase my tempo and go for longer runs.
Now I find I look forward to my runs. I run at night because I'm not a morning person and because I want to spend time with daughter before she goes to bed. Running at night around the parks near my house is really special. At the top the hill is a playing field open to the night sky. There are no street lights. On nights like tonight the scene was bathed in moonlight. I could see the city of Melbourne stretched out around me, glowing and shimmering in the distance. I could see all the way to distant hills at King Lake and Mount Dandenong.
As I run past the Eucalypts on the way down from the hill I often disturb fruit bats who silently fly away from their night-time feasts on the flowering gum trees. The air tonight was just pleasantly cool. In the summer and later in the spring the air develops a warmth that surrounds and caresses as I run. I feel enveloped by nature even as I listen to Heavy Rock raging through my mp3 player. Distracting me from the pain of pushing myself.
As I run my mind wanders between enjoying the song, feeling the air, enjoying night-time vistas and thinking of interesting problems. I feel empowered that my body has spare capacity to burn as a run. I can easily run 4 km and finish with a fast sprint now. This thought has struck me many times recently. My mother has recently had open heart surgery. No matter what doctors might say about this being a routine operation, the person getting the surgery is just a blown fuse away from death. Recovering from the operation is a long process. The heart has to learn how to beat by itself. The body has to repair the ribs split open. The mind has to recover from the confrontation with its mortality.
So as I run I feel keenly alive. I savor the moments. Feel the feelings. Think the thoughts. Solve the interesting problems. I look forward to the fun times and interesting challenges ahead but at the back of my mind is the knowledge that one day there won't be a new day for me.